G1 and Cupcake – What’s the Deal?

Current G1 owners are licking their chops at the prospect of getting some much desired updates to their Android phones.  Features like video recording, stereo Bluetooth, and an on-screen keyboard are the only things missing from an otherwise robust OS.  But will the G1 ever see the icing from cupcake’s features?  Ask around and you’re likely to get varying answers.

Here’s what we’ve pieced together so far.

Cupcake is a different version, or image of Android.  Carriers and handset makers are free to take whatever is available from Android and bend it to their liking.  If the hardware you have doesn’t support stereo Bluetooth, then obviously the device won’t either.  No software is going to override the hardware and get it to do something it can’t.

The image of Android that was used for the G1 was built by Google, HTC, and T-Mobile.  The updates for Android, including the cupcake stuff, don’t need to involve HTC or T-Mobile.  Developers from all over are chipping in to make Android a more full software platform.

According to Engadget Mobile, HTC told them today that at some point in the future, the fixes and updates from cupcake will be sent to G1 owners in an over the air (OTA) push.  Further, they claim that HTC is not too involved in the decision as to when it happens, leaving it up to Google and T-Mobile to figure out.

It might be a while before that happens though, based on some information we’ve had sent our way.

I have been following the Google group of the developers on the cupcake and its a piece of garbage as it is now. One person there put it on his G1 and when he recorded video it crashed and froze up constantly. They now say there needs to be a new radio firmware update before it ever works on the G1 and no such work is being done on this…The G1 contains a significant number of proprietary applications, drivers, etc… that aren’t part of the core Android Open-Source Project.

The three companies involved in bringing the G1 together all had a say in what the device looked and felt like.  The phone was built by taking a pre-released version of Android and tweaking and molding it.  The version of Android we see on the G1 will probably never make its way to another handset.  That’s one of the first things we learned about the platform.  Carriers and end users have the ability to change things to their liking. While the G1 is more Google and less T-Mobile, the Sprint phone might be branded to around the carrier’s identity and services.

It’s a very likely scenario that the cupcake Android is what will get used for the Samsung, Hauwei, and other handsets.  It’s possible that they are using the new “master branch” of Android as they build their first devices.  We’re already almost two weeks removed since the cupcake stuff became merged into the master branch.

Maybe Sprint is a little more involved in inner circle of things and knew what was coming.  They claim to be ready to drop an Android handset when the timing is right.  As an outsider looking in, the first reaction is to think that no time is like the present for the ailing carrier.  Perhaps they’ve got the hardware ready to go and have been waiting for the updates, patches, and fixes.  Rather than looking for the right date on a calendar, they are working to get a more recent version of Android to play nice with their hardware.

As we get further from the release of the G1, the words to describe the hardware get less mixed.  After months of reading reviews and different takes on the device, the general consensus is that while the phone is good, Android is great.  As we look towards the next few handsets that will run Android, we get increasingly excited at the prospects of prettier devices with an even better operating system.

EDITOR UPDATE: I’ve noticed some negative feedback regarding this article from other sources.  I’d like to point out that nowhere in this article did the writer state that the G1 would not get the update.  In fact, the best I see is that he said it might be a while.  Further, he didn’t claim that our email tip was gospel.  It was simply from someone who followed the Google group, wanting to share with us.

I’m glad to see any attention to the piece that we get, even if it is to correct things that are not true.  The team of guys who help contribute to AndroidGuys is comprised mainly of fans.  There are various amounts of industry background and writing experience here.  While sometimes I’d like to step in an edit posts before publishing, I tend to let my guys get beat up a little by our readers before I make changes.

Thanks to everyone who has read and/or commented on the piece! Have a Happy New Year!

Scott Webster

Note: Select outbound links may include affiliate tracking codes. Revenue generated from any potential purchases is used to fund AndroidGuys. Read our policy.



  1. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Cupcake update to G1 will be handled no different from how T-Mobile handles updates to other operating systems such as the Blackberry. T-Mobile does not push out updates to Blackberry phones as soon as RIM makes them available. T-Mobile takes its own time, but eventually the updates do come. Whatever software features the hardware supports, T-Mobile pretty much passes them on. So, if the G1 supports the features available in Cupcake, it will eventually make its way to the G1. How far out that will be will depend entirely on how nicely the Cupcake update plays on the G1 and how much time/resources T-Mobile can devote to testing and tweaking it to play nicely on the G1.

  2. Your informant doesn’t really understand how Android operates as an open-source project. The “cupcake” branch that we have is a work-in-progress on the next major feature set for the android platform. Things like video recording don’t work because… surprise, it’s not yet done. The current code that exists as cupcake is almost but not quite feature complete, which means that it is pre-alpha — no QA at all has started on it yet, since the basic features are not quite yet implemented.

    So at some point “cupcake” will become a final release candidate (RC) after going through alpha and beta testing/fixing, at which point it becomes the most recent stable android platform that people can build production phones off of. That will actually be our first RC quality code in the open-source tree, since what is there from before them is based on the 1.0 RC that was the basis of the G1 software but required a number of changes (which are not tested) to be able to make it publicly available.

  3. This article doesn’t provide any useful information. All you’ve done is attempted to present speculative information as factual. Didn’t work :(

  4. I’m sorry, but I really don’t want an onscreen keyboard. The main reason I got a G1 is for the keyboard. I’ve got fat fingers and they combine with the parallax problem to render ALL onscreen keyboards useless.

    Also, having watch the Doctor Who episodes Doomsday and Age of Steel, I’m not sure I want stereo Bluetooth…

    I would honestly prefer a decent version of Google Reader for the device, that’s about it.

  5. Wow… that sure is one bad article…
    Your informant doesn’t really seem ot understand the whole process of developing software. IF cupcake (which is basically the current SVN version of android) was stable and wouldn’t crash, it would have been marekd stable and pushed as an update.
    People who install a cupcake build on their G1 should know that they are currently working with an unstable version of an operating system and the bundeled (new) applications.
    Also: what does the radio interface have to do with anything? The communication between android and the Baseband takes place over a small RIL (Radio Interface Layer) as in most smartphones and isn’t that big of a part of android.

    >The G1 contains a significant number of proprietary applications, drivers, etc
    As on EVERY smartphone (even the freerunner!), the GSM part of the phone won’t be accessed though a big open-source driver, but rather a small driver which talks to the Baseband interface. As for the applications: the operating system and the dalvik VM are completely open source and there is a well documented API available for developers to do as they please. Talking about a “significant number” is simply put yellow press level (as a lot of this post)

  6. Do you really think that Google would have pushed out its own branded version of the G1 as a development tool (and a freebie to every single one of their employees) if they had planned on never updating it again? Cupcake is “very much a work in progress” just as it was announced. It isn’t finished yet. When it is, they’ll get it onto the G1 with appropriate drivers bundled. Whether that takes the form of an installer or an OTA push is really irrelevant, it WILL get onto the phone somehow.

  7. They didn’t say that anything was 100% factual. I see a reference to what Engadget said and what someone else said too. I think the G1 will get the OTA stuff. If not all of it, most of it. It seems like the hardware is there to support it.

    It is just that “pieced together” stuff.

Comments are closed.